Given the tragic events in Colorado — a state that sometimes seems like a magnet for this magnitude of tragedy, doesn’t it? — I’m slightly less enthusiastic about going out to the movies these days, and kind of depressed about my fellow humans’ state of mind. I’m also with my friend Ari http://mouseferatu.com/index.php/blog/us/ when he says that the worst thing we can do right now is politicize the tragedy. I think that discussions of societal erosion, gun control and related issues should probably wait until a later date.
Other than that I’m just delivering another round of public self-abuse, in that I’m pointlessly talking about my writing projects, which I suspect don’t interest too many people right now. As previously noted I’m in the process of rewriting a novel to make it more palatable to a potential agent (and in retrospect, I’m largely inclined to agree with her assessment that there are long stretches in the original book where nothing — or at least not enough– actually happens), and it’s the most extensive rewrite I’ve ever engaged in. Unless of course you count the original rewrite, in which I expanded an 8,000 word short story into a 100,000 word novel, a feat that I think I can be justifiably pleased with.
What am I learning about rewriting this thing? I’m learning that rewriting is a bitch.
Here’s the deal — “rewriting” doesn’t mean “revising” — i.e. just going through and tightening up dialog or fixing minor narrative glitches. It means literally rewriting much of the book from scratch and making some very basic structural changes to the story.
For example, the original version of the story had (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned) a plucky female reporter as the narrator’s sidekick and eventual girlfriend. On rereading I came to the painful conclusion that said plucky reporter didn’t really add anything to the story, and another part of the rewrite, in which I moved an important event from Idaho back to the Portland area completely eliminated the two characters’ initial meeting and rationale for wanting to get to know each other. Also, the plucky reporter was only in about a third of the book and in most of those places it felt as if I’d kind of shoehorned her into the narrative for no good reason. So, with great regret, exit plucky female reporter.
I just murdered a character, and I feel bad about it.
After that I have the problem of rewriting a narrative that I completed almost two years ago. When I finished the first draft, it felt about right. Sure, I made some changes, but they were more along the lines of what I called “revision” above — rewriting a fight scene here, changing the character’s reactions over there, tweaking dialog elsewhere, adding a scene with a new minor character, etc. It all seemed to flow with the narrative I’d created.
Now I’ve gone after the narrative and continuity with a hacksaw. I have cut the story up, rearranged it, shuffled it, truncated it, and generally acted like Dr. Frankenstein. Whole scenes are gone, with new ones to take their place. Scenes from one place are surgically removed and grafted elsewhere. Characters who were minor become more major. Major characters get rewritten, relationships get changed, and some folks (poor Kate the reporter, for example) are gone completely.
It’s hard to explain the problems I’m having, but I think it comes down to issues of the story flow. When I’m first writing, it’s generally in sequence and mostly chronological. One part of the story flows into another, and when I write a scene, the memory of the previous scene is still fresh in my head. Now, as I rewrite, that sense of continuity, of smooth narrative, is gone, replaced by a jagged, bumpy road where I go to the end of the novel, then back to the beginning, then to the middle and back to the end. There’s no sense of sequence or linearity, so it’s hard for me to write scenes with the right narrative or emotional quality.
Add to this the fact that some sections are getting completely rewritten. I’m about 65k into the rewrite (on the homestretch, actually), and I’ve pretty much decided to throw out the last 30k or so of the original story and start over. The character dynamics have changed, the time period has shrunk drastically (from weeks to days or hours), one major character is gone, two new ones have sort of taken her place, I don’t have quite as much scene setting, etc., etc.
It’s a pain in the ass. And what I guess bothers me most of all is the notion that this may all be for nothing. That I’ll rewrite, reorganize and resubmit, only to get another friendly but firm rejection, because the problems weren’t addressed adequately. The fear is that after all my work I’ll be back where I started, with no publisher, no agent, and only the rather bleak prospect of taking my existing novels and putting them up for sale on Amazon or B&N or Smashwords to sell a few dozen and give me a little pocket money.
I guess we can’t all be Twilight fanfic authors who get noticed and end up making $1 million a week by after some publisher does a little global s&r, substituting the word “vampire” with “millionaire.” I simply cannot bring myself to read 50 Shades of Grey for fear that I will give up trying to write altogether, staring in bafflement and wondering how shitty, uninformed, amateurish bondage porn can become a national bestseller and propel its fan-girl writer into the literary stratosphere, while I and my friends toil ceaselessly and fruitlessly in the mud and muck with all the other wanna-be authors.
So you might think I’m having a hard time maintaining a positive attitude. Well, yeah, but it doesn’t stop me. In fact I’m going to go do some more revisions right now, since time spent jacking off on my blog equals time spent not writing and revising.
Hang in there all. Another Pit of Swords and Sorcery is coming. Maybe Beastmaster. Yeah, Beastmaster.